Only Lovers Left Alive
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 27th April 2014
Having closed last year’s International Film Festival, audiences should be grateful for another chance to catch one of the most sumptuous, intoxicating and yes, possibly self-indulgent love stories of modern cinema. Under the pen and direction of indie darling Jim Jarmusch, this exceptionally romantic tale of two creatures of the night negotiating the travails of a long distance relationship is so much more than a “vampire movie”.
Wait, come back – Twilight this definitely ain’t. Rather, Jarmusch has penned an adult’s fantasy of (quite literally) eternal love which eschews fight scenes with werewolves and a nauseating threesome in order to cram in as many clever literary and cultural references as is possible in two hours. With a top-notch cast (ice queen Tilda Swinton thaws into an incredibly warm wife to Tom Hiddleston’s mopey musician Adam) and a witty, laugh-out-loud script (pretentious? Oui!), Lovers is like a delicious cinematic liqueur.
The titular lovers travel between Michigan and Morocco, lugging classic tomes and a history’s worth of musical instruments, her light to his dark in both costume and nature. They are the epitome of cool, languorous in their dealings with the world and one another in a way which makes viewing the film strangely relaxing. Even when Mia Wasikowska appears as the delightfully trouble-making sister, they all make being a vampire look such fun.
Swinton is typically excellent, but Hiddleston (best known as Loki from Thor) is simply glorious as the suicidal musician who despairs at how humanity behaves. Supported by amusing performances by John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe (his whinings about Shakespeare giving a clever slant to history as we know it) and Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin as a rock ‘n’ roller who attends to Adam’s every need, the small cast is a universal delight.
If anything, it’s all a bit too lovely to look at, and you wish the camera would stop panning for a moment so you can take in all the production detail. In-jokes abound, with the lovers effortless in their delivery of cutesy dialogue and loving bon mots. Some may find it meandering but for viewers with the patience for the scenic route (and some esoteric musical sequences), the rewards are considerable.